Eating right and exercising hard in space helps protect International Space Station astronauts’ bones, a finding that may help solve one of the key problems facing future explorers heading beyond low Earth orbit.

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank exercises using the ARED on the International Space Station. (NASA)
A new study looked at the mineral density of specific bones as well as the entire skeleton of astronauts who used a new, stronger “weightlifting” machine. The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), installed in 2008, doubles the maximum simulated weight to as much as 600 pounds. Astronauts using the ARED came home with more lean muscle and less fat, and kept more of their whole body and regional bone mineral density.

Further experiments are looking at how different ratios of animal protein and potassium in the diet affect bone health, and at the benefits of lowering sodium. NASA food scientists have reformulated more than 80 space foods to reduce the sodium content.

Learn more at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/bone_study.html.

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